Type Charity
Location Gosport, Plymouth, Helensburgh
Grant amount £35,536
Date March 2018
Website www.aggies.org.uk

How the charity helps working age - serving personnel

Aggie Weston’s (Aggies) is a benevolent organisation, providing pastoral/benevolent support to all serving naval and Royal Marine personnel and their families through a wide range of services and activities.

There are three main strands to their work, two of which are:

Braeholm, Helensburgh

Located in the Clyde Naval Base area, this heavily used facility is the last remaining of the “Sailors’ Rests” and provides accommodation for personnel and visiting families a coffee shop, fitness room, crèche, conference rooms etc. The Centre also runs numerous events for families of RN and RM personnel in the area and works closely with HMNB Clyde to help boost morale for submariners’ families during long patrols.

The past year has seen a significant growth in demand for the free-to-the-user Welcome to Scotland scheme: focused in particular on those affected by the Maritime Change Programme which will see the Submarine Service concentrate on one centre of excellence. This scheme mitigates the impact of a first draft or appointment to Faslane by allowing service families to visit schools, seek employment and explore the area.

Community Projects

Aggie’s community projects include a number of special initiatives focused on improving specific areas of service life including the Ark Project, supporting RN and RM families on the Widewell estate in Plymouth and Champion Clubs running at Rowner, Gosport, to provide support to Service families through regular weekly activities in term time and through pop-up clubs, generally lasting a few days, offered during school holidays.

Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity grant

In March 2015, Aggies received a grant of £103,400 from The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity as support for the Braeholm Families Centre, Ark Community Project and Champions Clubs. 

Ark Community Project

The Ark Community Project in Widewell, Plymouth is an ‘extended schools initiative’ that serves the Widewell Armed Forces family estate and other adjacent communities in Plymouth.

The grant contributes towards funding the two part-time Family and Community workers and helps to provide these very valued services for the naval community. As the Navy is the most separated of the three services, the provision of family and community support looks to continue despite the drawdown from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The vision for the Ark Community was born as a result of Widewell School being aware of a range of needs through the community it serves. One of the key areas was the challenges faced by service families during long and unpredictable deployments. In particular there was a lack of community focus and a community meeting place. For service families (which form about 50% of the families attending the school) this lack of community focus meant that they could not easily integrate into to the local community so there was a danger of isolation. The community space meant that the project could provide access to a range of opportunities. The project is funded from several sources and supports two part-time Family and Community Workers based at Widewell Primary School.

During the funding period the Ark Community project has provided the following and more:

  • Toddler groups
  • parents groups
  • crafting sessions
  • lunch clubs
  • after school clubs
  • one to one and listening ear support
  • food bank deliveries
  • one to one support for separated, divorcing and troubled families

Thank you for the food, it has helped us so much and I don't know what we would have done without it.

Champions Club

The Champions Clubs are based in premises at St Mary’s Church, Rowner and support naval service families in this highly deprived area. In some ways similar to the Ark Community Project in Plymouth, the project aims to develop community cohesion and aid the integration of families into the local community. The well established and highly effective small team run a range of activities and events (coffee mornings, after school clubs, holiday clubs etc) to help personnel and their families overcome the feelings of isolation and loneliness often experienced when they move to a new base or are a long way from their hometown.

Champions Aggies provides a social haven on some days. No matter how high or low I am feeling, they are always welcoming. It's a tonic, and four different walls other than home.

The grant from RNRMC supports the running costs of one full-time and six part-time staff. As with the Ark Community Project, there is a continuing need for the provision of family and community support to the naval community in this very needy area.

I feel I can open up about personal issues and not be judged. I feel there is a community spirit here.